- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 3, 2002

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) President Bush eased Cold War restrictions yesterday on high-performance computer exports to Russia, China, India and Pakistan.

From his Texas ranch, Mr. Bush notified congressional leaders that he was raising the threshold for government approval of computer exports to “Tier 3” nations, a category that also includes Israel.

Under the relaxed export-control standards, individual licenses and prior government review will be required only for the export of computers that perform more than 190,000 MTOPS, or millions of theoretical operations per second.

The current threshold is 85,000 MTOPS, a performance standard that has become commonly available.

“These reforms are needed due to the rapid rate of technological change in the computer industry. Single microprocessors available today by mail order and the Internet perform at more than 25 times the speed of supercomputers built in the early 1990s,” said White House deputy press secretary Scott McClellan.

“These changes will advance the president’s goal of updating the U.S. export-control system so that it protects U.S. national security and, at the same time, allows America’s high-tech companies to innovate and successfully compete in today’s marketplace,” the spokesman added.

The computer-chip industry pushed for the increase last year in a compromise offer. Ideally, the technology companies would like to eliminate the MTOPS standard completely, saying it would give the president more flexibility in restricting exports of high-powered computers.

Critics say a better tactic to protect national security would be to restrict just the export of certain software, such as programs to model nuclear explosions or missile-guidance systems.

The United States maintains its virtual embargo on computer exports to Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, Sudan and Syria.

Mr. Bush’s revised export rules implement the general policies of the Export Administration Act, legislation controlling commercial exports that could be put to military use. The act expired in 1990 and has since been kept alive through temporary extensions.

By his action yesterday, Mr. Bush also removed Latvia from the list of Tier 3 countries and reclassified it as Tier 1, putting Latvia in league with Western European and other U.S. allies whose computer imports from the United States require no prior government review.

Both the House and the Senate have passed separate bills to end Cold War restrictions on exports of computers and other high-tech items. The differences between them are yet to be resolved, something that must be done before Congress can send the legislation to Mr. Bush for his signature.

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